Egypt detains suspects over deadly cathedral clashes

Coptic Christians in Cairo on Sunday attend the funeral of five men who died during clashes in the town of al-Khoussous on Saturday. (Reuters)

Egypt’s prosecution has ordered the detention for four days of 10 suspects, including four Christians, accused of killing, attempted killing and causing damage to St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, according to a prosecution statement.

The clashes erupted last week as Coptic families were preparing a funeral procession for those who were killed in the Egyptian town of al-Khoussous the day before.

The 10 suspects were arrested for possession of firearms and weapons with blades, state broadcaster Nile TV reported, adding: “At least four Coptic activists were arrested on Friday dawn for complicity in clashes.”

Christian-Muslim confrontations have increased in Muslim-majority Egypt since the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011 gave freer rein to hardline Islamists repressed under his autocratic rule.

The state news agency MENA said one person had been killed and 84 injured in several hours of fighting at the cathedral, headquarters of the Coptic church, which was showered with stones, petrol bombs and bird-shot.

Following the ceremony, Christians started hurling rocks at police officers, a witness said.

The protesters smashed six private cars and set two on fire, prompting an angry reaction from Muslims living in the neighborhood, who threw stones at them, a witness said.

Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader elected in June, has promised to protect the rights of Copts, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 84 million population.

The president’s office and top Muslim leaders were quick to condemn Friday’s clashes, which happened after Christian children scrawled on the wall of a Muslim religious institute, according to witnesses.

Still, many Christians at the funeral called for Mursi and his Islamist allies to go, some of them chanting: “The blood of Christians is not cheap, Mursi.”

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Last Update: Sunday, 14 April 2013 KSA 18:48 - GMT 15:48
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